Tag Archives: schooner

St. Mary’s Bay in mourning, men marooned on ice, lost.

untitledArchival Moment

March 29, 1875

There was much excitement in the town of St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Bay on March 2, 1875, excitement that would by the end of the month turn into grieving.

The excitement was stirred by the sighting of a vessel 2 ½ miles from the shore of St. Mary’s,  the vessel was stuck in the ice. The men of  St. Mary’s  looked on this as an opportunity to salvage the vessel. A party of thirty four men and one young boy, 14 year old John Grace was quickly gathered and they started out on the ice too the brig, spending the day on board.

Toward evening they started back to St. Mary’s, but had not proceeded far when  they realized the terrible fact  that the ice had parted between them and the shore, and the opening was increasing every moment.

The men would be marooned on a pan of ice for the best part of the month, many died, and some would be rescued from the pan of ice by a the schooner Georg S. Fogg on route to Bermuda. The survivors were later transferred to a larger passing steamship, the Nurnberg, on route to Baltimore, Maryland.

It was on arrival in Baltimore that a reporter with the Baltimore Sun learned off the plight of the men from St. Mary’s and interviewed the men writing this story.

Andrew Mooney of St. Mary’s interview with the Baltimore Sun

Andrew Mooney a man of thirty six years, with an intelligent and honest countenance, who is among those of the Nuremberg said yesterday (March 28, 1875) that all were neighbors to each other, and nearly all were born in St. Mary’s. He and a number of others have large families, which they supported by fishing in the summer.

Mooney told the Baltimore Sun that when they saw that the ice had parted they realized they were in trouble.

The Baltimore Sun reported:

Consternation seized upon them as they hastened forward, and each threw away his heavy outer clothing as he ran, to be encumbered as little as possible. When the brink of the ice was reached the space of water between them and the shore was half a mile wide, the ice haven broken one mile from the land, and the immense field upon which they stood floating steadily further out to sea.

It was now quite dark, the party was exhausted and half-clad and they prepared for the terrible cold which soon set in. At first it rained until they were all wet to the skin. The rain then turned to sleet and snow, the wind veered to the northward, and the cold became intense, the fierce blast of the wind cutting them to the bone.

Then began the effort for life, the men stamping their feet, running madly about, and the more sturdy encouraging the weak and faltering. The cold still increased, as Mooney says, it had reached a degree of intensity not equaled before in that latitude this winter.

“When morning dawned several corpses were counted …”

At midnight the cold and exhaustion began to tell upon the doomed ones in the little party. First one and then another of them would lie down saying he could not go any further. The others would pick them up and try to keep them on their feet but after reeling for a short distance like drunken men they would fall senseless upon the ice and die without a struggle. Those able to keep their feet had enough to keep themselves from falling into fatal lethargy and with sad hearts each victim was left to his fate. Father or son or brother saw each other fall and were powerless to help. When morning dawned several corpses were counted at intervals along the ice and of the remainder none could tell who was to be the next victim.

On that terrible night, March 2, the boy and other delicate ones were placed in the middle of the throng as they stood or moved about and thus secured some shelter.

A field of ice twenty feet square floated near the brink of the ice in the open water, upon which nine of them got, hoping that it would float toward the shore ice and they could thus save themselves. When it had floated three hundred yards from the ice, upon which their comrades stood it grounded, and the unfortunates remained upon it for three days and nights, during which time six of them died, the other three being picked up by the schooner Georg S. Fogg on the 6th March.

When it is remembered that seven died on that first night, it is wonderful that three of the nine on the small icefield escaped alive, they having endured hunger as well as the cold. All the food they had in all that time was a small white fish which was frozen in the ice. This they divided between them.

The eighteen men remaining after the nine floated off the small ice field made their way back to the abandoned brig, which was tightly jammed in the ice, and was carried with it. All expected to die in her and some of them had lost their senses before reaching her the second time. There were no stores on the brig and they subsisted on molasses a few oranges and edible scraps that could be found.

“… a schooner was seen four miles away…”

At length, one evening at sunset, a schooner was seen four miles away, which had been caught in the same field that imprisoned the brig. That night the half famished men held a council and determined to reach the schooner next day or die in the effort. Next morning at daylight they embarked in the brig’s small boat, which could scarcely hold them all, and after struggling through the ice nearly all day reached the schooner George S. Fogg and were saved. There they met the three survivors of their nine comrades who left them nearly two weeks before, the three singularly enough, having been saved by the same vessel that had rescued the other eighteen.

Captain Spence gave them plenty of food, and if the prayers of these grateful, honest, poor Irish fishermen can avail to make his future life prosperous, he will never want on this earth’s stores.

The twenty one fishermen and crew of seven over crowded the little schooner, but the Captain had food enough for all, and all the discomfort that they experienced was from their circumscribed quarters. Some of the more robust of the party perished, and some of the more frail escaped, among them the boy James Grace.

The survivors were later transferred to a larger passing steamship, the Nurnberg, on route to Baltimore, Maryland.

To a question as to how the news would be received in St. Mary’s, Mooney replied, as he brushed a tear away, there is now mourning in every household, for they do not know that any of us are saved. He said that he had six children, and that some of those who had died have families equally as large.

Names of those from St. Mary’s who perished:

The names of the men who perished on the ice were: John Poole, Michael Poole, James Vale, Michael Waile (Vale) , Thomas Boone, Patrick Dobbin, Gregory Rouser, (Rousell)  John Rouser (Rousell) and Patrick Waile (Vale) . Michael and Patrick Waile (Vale)  were father and son Gregory and John Rouser (Rousell)  were father and son.

The unmarried men were Joseph Grace, Patrick Leatham, Michael Barre (Barry) , and William Boone.

Names of those from St. Mary’s brought to Baltimore:

Andrew Mooney and Thomas Mooney, brothers; William Ruben; Patrick and William Tobin, brothers; John Fuer (Furey), James Grace (aged 14) whose brother Joseph Grace perished, James Peddle, Thomas Barre (Barry) , perished, and Benjamin Sancrow (St. Croix).

The ten Newfoundlanders were taken in charge by the British Consul on (March 29,1875) and were sent home in the Caspian, which  travelled between to Halifax  and Baltimore.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives: GN 20/1 March 29, 1875, Baltimore Sun: Thrilling Story of the Sea. Adventure of thirty four men.

 

“The Gale, the Worst for Fifty Years”

Archival Moment

December 23, 1890

e048fce0203eef476bdd23b6560d31abThe Christmas Season, 1890, was a difficult time for many families throughout Newfoundland, the families were trying to recover as best they could from the loss of their fishing schooners or homes, lost or damaged in the “violence of the gale which swept over the country.”

Headlines in the St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram on December 2, 1890 tried to convey how intense the storm was with headlines like “The Gale, the Worst for Fifty Years and A Night of Terror”

The newspaper reported:

“Its beginning last night will be memorable for the violence of the gale which swept over this section of country. The roar of the wind was something awful; it reached a pitch of sharpness that seemed to express a vengeful rage of destruction, and resembled a steamer letting off steam.

Hundreds of people were up all night guarding their property as best they might. The force of the wind may be understood when it is stated that it tore off slates from the roof of the church of England Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Church; and the iron railing which surmounts the Athenaeum was blown down.

From a house on Harvey Road, near the Parade Rink, where dwelt three families, the inmates no sooner escaped than the roof blew in.

Hundreds of people were up all night watching their domiciles and fearing the worst; and, in Quidi Vidi, pretty nearly the whole population were on the qui vive (alert).

The article went on to describe other particulars about the storm and the damage that it inflicted but it was not until December 23, 1890 that the full impact of the storm was realized.

J.W. Withers the Colonial Secretary in Newfoundland reported, based on “the local press and from returns forwarded from the districts that 49 fishing vessels with their cargo had been lost and another 39 schooners had been damaged.

Even more devastating to the families was the report of extensive damage done to 63 homes and 20 stores.

Reports from some communities were very particular:

“At Quidi Vidi widespread devastation was wreaked. Burton’s house, stores and flakes were levelled to the ground; Dunn’s house had its roof blown off; Power’s flakes and Pynn’s were laid flat, and Skifflngton had a boat lost.”

The Telegram was happy to report:

“The instances enumerated are only a few of the havoc wrought in town and country, but the happiest feature in the tale of general wreck and ruin is that no loss of life is to be deplored.”

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives GN 1.3A  File 3, 1890 contains a detailed inventory of vessels and schooners, their community of origin and vessel name lost and damaged by the December Gale of 1890.

Labrador Schooner with her crew, caught in the great storm.

Archival Moment

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

Down on the Labrador, David Blackwood

In November 1915 many of the Newfoundland newspapers were reporting that communities throughout the Island were in mourning or experiencing “great anxiety” over rumors of the loss of friends and family in a storm that battered the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

Communities in Conception Bay were grieving for the rumored loss of sixteen men and women, lost on the schooner, Swallow’ owned by Albert Fradsham, sailing out of Bay Robert’s.

The schooner had been last seen on November 15, 1915 on the northeast coast of Newfoundland in the town of Seldom Come By, Fogo Island. The schooner, it was confirmed had put into Seldom, where three of the crew from the area left her.

The crew had spent the summer and fall prosecuting the fishery on the Labrador.

With the departure of the ‘Swallow’ from Seldom Come By on November 16, 1915, there was silence, no one had seen or heard from the schooner. The general speculation was that the ‘Swallow’ with her crew had been caught in the great storm and driven out to sea.

It was not only the ‘Swallow’ out of Bay Robert’s that was missing, officials in Carbonear reported that the Schooners, ‘Silver Cord’, ‘Morella’, and the ‘L. and S’. were missing. Officials in St. John’s were reporting that the Schooner the ‘Blanche M’. and ‘H. W. Wentzell’ were missing. The Schooner ‘Annie’ out of Fermeuse was also reported missing in the storm.

The Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Mr. Archibald Piccott immediately dispatched the whaler ‘Cabot’, the tugboat ‘D.P. Ingraham’ and other steamers, to begin a search. Piccott had a vested interest in the search he had been educated and operated a shop in Bay Roberts. He would have known many of the 16 men and women on the ’Swallow’.

Fishermen_off_the_Coast_of_LabradorTheir search was to no avail, it was concluded that the ‘Swallow’ “must have been driven out into the ocean.” Many concluded that the ‘Swallow’ was lost with all aboard. The Bay Roberts newspaper The Guardian, on November 29, 1915 identified the crew aboard the Swallow:

“Beatrice Batten, Chas Batten and Henry Batten of Bareneed; Abram Smith and Rebecca Menchions of Bishop’s Cove; John Jones of Upper Island Cove; William Dawe, Frost (girl) and a boy named Snow of Clarke’s Beach,   a boy of South River; Ambrose Fagen of Kelligrews, Samuel Kinsella, William Russell, Arthur Greenland and William Russell Jr of Coley’s Point and Clara King of Country Road.”

John Bowering, was identified as the Master of the Schooner.

On November 30, 1915, there was a glimmer of hope, a report circulated that the schooner ‘Swallow’, now fifteen (15) days overdue from the Labrador coast, had been sighted in Lockers Bay, Flat Island, Bonavista Bay. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries immediately dispatched a motor boat from Greenspond to investigate.

The news was devastating. The battered schooner ‘Swallow’ had been towed into Flat Island, but the crew was missing.

The following day, December 1, 1915, the immense grief of the families and friends of those presumed dead was lifted. The Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Gordon Davidson had  received a telegram at his home in Goverment House, St. John’s from Mr. Bonar Law, Secretary of the Colonies (later Prime Minister of Britain) that read:

“The crew and passengers of The Swallow were saved and landed at Stornoway (Scotland)  by the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. Please circulate information, John Bowering.”

The local newspapers reported upon hearing about the telegram that:

“All will be thankful at the good news of their safety.”

Family and friends were later told that the ‘Swallow’  had been battered by the storm of the night of  November 16.  They were adrift for a number of days before they were spotted by a Norweigian Steamer.   The crew abandoned, the ‘Swallow’  and transferred to the Norwegian Steamer Hercules. The Norwegian vessel landed at Stornoway, a port on Lewis, the North Island of the Hebrides in North West, Scotland.

It is said that the Batten’s and other families had a particularly good Christmas in 1915. On Christmas Eve, the crew of the ‘Swallow’ who had all been presumed dead, landed at Bay Robert’s, they all walked home, back into the lives of their family and friends.

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/

Recommended Website: Costal Women in Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation. This virtual exhibit portrays the women who lived and worked in the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador prior to Confederation http://www.mun.ca/mha/cw/index.html

“A derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s … “

Archival Moment

December 7, 1884

With so many  barrells of flour this could be a good Christmas.

With so many barrells of flour this could be a good Christmas.

As Christmas 1884 approached, the people of St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay, were thinking it would not be a prosperous Christmas. It had been a bad year in the fishery. Their fortune was however about  change, unhappily born on the pain of other families from Placentia Bay.

On December 7, 1884 residents of St. Bride’s stood on ‘the bank overlooking Placentia Bay watching as a a derelict schooner, drifted ashore at St. Bride’s, dismasted and waterlogged…”

There was much excitement in St. Bride’s, it was quickly realized that Sixty three barrels of flour and six puncheons of molasses” was aboard the vessel. It was theirs to salvage, they would take it home.

In the days following the salvage effort, St. Bride’s fell silent. James E. Croucher, the Wreck Commissioner stationed at Great Placentia had arrived in the town on December 10th. He immediately began a search for the cargo of the ill-fated schooner, but to his dismay only found Twenty Four (24)  barrels of flour broken and in a damaged condition, and two  (2) puncheons of molasses …” 

Thirty nine (39) barrels of flour and four (4) puncheons of molasses were not accounted for.

Croucher, as the Wreck Commissioner was obliged by law, under the Consolidated States of Newfoundland to travel to St. Bride’s to investigate the loss of the Schooner, he could only conclude: the remainder of the property being distributed amongst salvors by a person or parties who had no authority from me to do so.”

As he sailed out of St. Bride’s for Great Placentia, the residents of St. Bride’s, no doubt celebrated. With their newly acquired abundance of flour and molasses, it would be a good Christmas.

The people of St. Bride’s also mourned, they knew that their gain came at the loss of the crew of the Schooner Stella, a crew of nine men out of nearby Oderin, Placentia Bay. It is said that she was wrecked in the “terrific gale of November 1884.”

Ever respectful of the dead, it is reported that “All the clothes that had belonged to the lost men (that had been taken from the Schooner)  were carefully dried and forwarded to their families.”

Recommended Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home: At the eastern edge of the continent, bounded by the sea, the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador’s livyers was tied to the fisheries and the North Atlantic. A rich mix of dialects, ways of life, food traditions, story and song developed here. The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, holds 70% of the Crew Agreements from 1863-1938, and 80% of the Agreements from 1951-1976. The crew agreements include particulars of each member of the crew, including name (signature), age, place of birth, previous ship, place and date of signing, capacity and particulars of discharge (end of voyage, desertion, sickness, death, never joined etc). http://www.mun.ca/mha/